Bryan Singer :: USA, Germany :: 2008 :: 1h50
The movie opens in Tunisia, during World War 2. We see Colonel Claus von Stauffenburg (Tom Cruise) writing that he is appalled by mass murder of Jews, by military command and his realisation that he can not find a single general to oppose Hitler. After being wounded by an air-strike, he is flown back to Germany, where he is called on to join a conspiracy against Hitler. Von Stauffenburg becomes the key figure in a wide plot by many senior officers to kill their leader. The plan was to execute Hitler’s own last line of defence -operation “Valkyrie”- which was to mobilise the reserves which were there to guard Berlin and Hitler himself in case of an Allied attack. By ingeniously modifying the operation to cut the SS out of the loop, the conspirators could use the very troops which were there to guard Hitler to stage a coup. Of course, Hitler does not die in the attack on his life, and the Valkyrie plan backfires on the hearing of the Fuhrer’s voice.
This is an exciting film about a daring rebellion, which ends badly – 200 executions for treason and many more arrests. Although the heroic story is well known, the film none the less succeeds in showing who was there, how their visions differed and how the events unfolded. The collective fear of the Nazi regime they themselves were a part of stands in stark contrast to the openly critical stance of the senior officials in the rebellion. The mixture of fear and dedication to the greater national cause transpire through the characters.
In Claus von Stauffenburg himself the dedication is the most remarkable, as he comes from a privileged aristocratic and military background. He risks his life and that of his family with the hope of saving millions around Europe, knowing fully well that the Allied landing in Normandy is the beginning of the end of the war. A swift end to the Nazi regime would not only save many, many lives but also permit a peace negotiation. Some of the other conspirators are in there for the ideal, to show they do not agree, to show the world after the war that Germany was not only Hitler’s Germany.
There are quite a few impressive scenes. When Von Stauffenburg is recruited by the Berlin conspirators, the conversation takes place on the benches of a Church. As Von Stauffenburg was a devout Catholic, the moral worth of his treason is not taken lightly. As they separate, we see that the roof of the gothic cathedral has been blown off, with a cloudy blue evening sky shining in.
We see Hitler as a frail hunchbacked old man who tries to pierce through every officer near him to single out the traitors. We are shown elaborately how hard it is to get to him, and how high up in the military ranks the conspiracy is. None the less, the devotion of the military majority, or their fear, eventually causes the failure of the plot. A plot which so nearly succeeded. A tragic and brave story, in a past so uncomfortably close by. Brilliantly constructed story board and excellently made. No need to hesitate to go in, if you have not done so already.